"In the 1980s, following the disastrous Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, China came up with a new social engineering experiment to drive economic goals. The one-child policy was created to better allocate resources, and many think it helped China create its amazing growth spurt over the last thirty years. But Mei Fong, a former writer for The Wall Street Journal, looks at all the complications that ensued, from an inverted pyramid, where a smaller and smaller working class has to care for retirees (women retire at 50!) to a generation with the largest male-to-female ratio in the world. With a one child policy, the country’s traditional preference for sons has created numerous untenable situations. The Sichuan Earthquake of 2008 created huge numbers of parentless couples, many of whom were sterilized. And what about the Chinese adoption boom of the 1990s? Were those babies really orphans, or were many out-of-plan infants sold to adoption agencies? And now with the policy scheduled to end, what will happen to the enormous infrastructure in place to enforce it? Fong’s survey is informative and engaging, with a touch a memoir; the author herself was a Han Chinese born in Malaysia, and she is one of five kids, all girls."— Daniel Goldin
An intimate investigation of the world's largest experiment in social engineering, revealing how its effects will shape China for decades to come, and what that means for the rest of the world
When Communist Party leaders adopted the one-child policy in 1980, they hoped curbing birth-rates would help lift China's poorest and increase the country's global stature. But at what cost? Now, as China closes the book on the policy after more than three decades, it faces a population grown too old and too male, with a vastly diminished supply of young workers.
Mei Fong has spent years documenting the policy's repercussions on every sector of Chinese society. In One Child, she explores its true human impact, traveling across China to meet the people who live with its consequences. Their stories reveal a dystopian reality: unauthorized second children ignored by the state, only-children supporting aging parents and grandparents on their own, villages teeming with ineligible bachelors, and an ungoverned adoption market stretching across the globe. Fong tackles questions that have major implications for China's future: whether its "Little Emperor" cohort will make for an entitled or risk-averse generation; how China will manage to support itself when one in every four people is over sixty-five years old; and above all, how much the one-child policy may end up hindering China's growth.
Weaving in Fong's reflections on striving to become a mother herself, One Child offers a nuanced and candid report from the extremes of family planning.